Most people remember Mary Tyler Moore as one of Hollywood’s great funny ladies, and for good reason: Laura Petrie, and more recently, Mary Richards, left an indelible mark on American society. Moore’s death today at age 80 is a real loss.
What many don’t know is that Mary Tyler Moore had deep ties to the Civil War community.
Her great-grandfather was Lt. Col. Lewis Tilghman Moore of the 4th Virginia Infantry, part of the legendary Stonewall Brigade. Col. Moore helped to lead the regiment during its many famous engagements from Henry House Hill at the First Battle of Bull Run to the end of the war in 1865. During the winter and spring of 1862, Jackson established his headquarters in Moore’s home in Winchester. That house is today the Stonewall Jackson Headquarters Museum, Mary Tyler Moore was a generous donor to help pay for its restoration. Her great grandfather’s house’s connection to the Civil War remained important to her for the rest of her life.
She was also the great-great-great granddaughter of Conrad Shindler, who lived in Shepherdstown in what is today West Virginia. In approximately 1795, Conrad Shindler built a sturdy brick home on the main street in downtown Shepherdstown that still stands. In the 1990s, Shepherd University, which is roughly a block away from the Shindler house, undertook a major project to create a massive database of Civil War soldiers. That project needed a home, and when the Shindler house came available in 1995, Mary Tyler Moore purchased the house and then donated it to the University. The Shindler house today is called the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, named for Mary Tyler Moore’s father. The image at the top of the post is of the Center’s original director, Prof. Mark Snell, and Ms. Moore on the front porch of the house at the ceremony dedicating the Center.
Finally, while she is rightfully best remembered for her comic genius, Mary Tyler Moore also played another famous Mary, Mary Todd Lincoln, in 1988 opposite Sam Waterston’s portrayal of the 16th President of the United States in a rare dramatic turn. Her performance won acclaim in playing the tragic former first lady of the United States.
While we should all mourn the loss of a brilliant Hollywood star today, it’s also important to remember that the Civil War community has also lost one of its greatest and most generous benefactors, and her loss will be keenly felt as a result.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: ECW’s Kevin Pawlak, a graduate of Shepherd University, benefitted from Moore’s generosity when he was a student. Read his reflection on her impact.]